a quartet of darling clandestine reviews


Itsy bitsy bitsies.

More Darling Clandestine today! As always, reviews were done as blindly as possible, with notes and descriptions added after the fact.

Mishigami: Mishigami is inspired by the beautiful Lake Michigan, from Illinois to Wisconsin to Indiana to, well, Michigan, and all its moods, from frantic to placid, and all its colors, from steely black to algae green to misty grey to Caribbean blue, and all its shorelines, from fine beach sands to rocky cliffs to dappled pebbles to soft reedy mud. It’s more than just an “aquatic” scent; it’s got haunting sandy depth that I’m really, really pleased with.

In the bitsy: A deep, sandy aquatic. Not your typical blue, ozone-y water scent. On skin the sandiness seems even stronger – it’s deep, dark, and a bit murky. This is not crystal clear water, it’s the kind of water you wade into and wonder what’s swimming beneath you. I don’t always love aquatics, but I’m on board with this one.

After a few minutes on skin, there is a period where it goes a bit dryer sheet-y, unfortunately – which is the trouble I have with most aquatics. Thankfully that mostly fades before too long and it’s back to sandy, watery loveliness. I’d like to grab at least a solid of this when/if it comes back to the shop.

I wanted a bit more murkiness from this, so I tried layering on a bit of Gram-Negative at one point and it really worked well. Gram-Negative enhanced the deep, murky quality of Mishigami wonderfully, while Mishigami lent Gram-Negative a bit of fresh natural sweetness. I really like this layering combo. It also lasts much better than Gram Negative alone.

Gram-Negative: Gram-Negative is deep, damp, earthy essential moss; sticky green leaf resin; a whisper of black tea; and a rare, rich, mellow, buttery orchid essential oil that is just divine. It’s incredibly smooth, unisex, and one of my new personal favorites.

In the bitsy: DEEP and green. All caps deep. On skin it smells like a thick layer of leaves decaying on the forest floor. Deep, green, damp, and a bit sludgy. It’s intense like that for a few minutes before mellowing into something I can’t even accurately describe – it’s rich, resinous but not incense-y, and almost – oddly – a bit buttery. It’s a very strange scent, but I really like it. It’s a perfect example of how DC scents are heavy morphers – the dry down here smells absolutely nothing like the oil in the bottle or on wet application.

Gram-Negative seems to have somewhat low throw on my skin, so at some point I’ll be getting a solid to try layering this one because I’d love for it to be a bit stronger.

Fisticuffs: Wine and honey and hot blood and concrete, with the green rush of the thrill of the fight. Fisticuffs evolves magnificently on the skin, starting spicy and ending intriguingly cool. Intoxicating and absolutely unisex. 

In the bitsy: Deep and sweet, with a bit of green and the distinct sharp smell of asphalt. On skin the green comes out more and tempers the sweetness at first, but then the honey blooms in a major way and it’s intensely golden and richly sweet. There’s an earthiness in the background, and after a while a light spiciness emerges, but the honey is the real star of this show.

Evonne recommended Fisticuffs to me based on my intense love of La La La, All Right (which I physically and emotionally require a bottle of, please come back La La!), and (of course) she wasn’t wrong. I really, really like this one. As a bonus, it has pretty fantastic throw.

Maudlin & Bedlam: Maudlin & Bedlam is beautifully complex—dark, warm honey and herbals and wood frosted unsettlingly with weeping green leaves. It’s one of my new favorites, with a subtle, sexy drydown, and thoroughly appropriate for ladies and gents.

In the bitsy: Dark and sweet, with a little bit of a minty medicinal quality, like some kind of ointment. (That sounds gross, mostly because the word “ointment” is gross, but it’s not!) On skin it’s a little less sweet, and that minty herbal-ness is more prominent. It stays like that for a few minutes, and then the honeyed sweetness starts to amp up again, reminiscent of the honey note in Fisticuffs, but less intensely thick and golden.

Maudlin & Bedlam smells like honey mashed with mint and herbs in a mortar and pestle. Overall it is slightly medicinal, but not in a bad way – it’s like wild backwoods folk medicine, some kind of herbal salve you’d mash up to press into a mosquito bite or a burn or a tracker jacker sting if you’re Katniss Everdeen and you’ve volunteered as a tribute in the 74th Annual Hunger Games. I like it a lot. This one also seems to have a bit less throw, so I’ll definitely be acquiring a solid for layering and touch-up purposes.

Most of this stuff is currently available from Darling Clandestine, should you wish to rub any of these smells on and around your person. Mishigami is the only exception, but hopefully it’ll reappear soon enough.

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